What the heck is mobility anyways???
The 101 on Mobility
Mobility… a word that is used probably 10+ times a day in any given CrossFit box. Members come in 30 minutes before class and stay 30 minutes after class to do mobility work, but do they actually know what it is they’re doing?
The word mobility was very confusing to me for a long time. As a gymnast and competitive gymnastics coach, flexibility was my idea of mobility. As a gymnast, we would work on flexibility a minimum of one hour per day. That hour included doing two minute split holds with our front foot on an 8 inch mat. As a gymnastics coach, we kept an eye for four year olds who had natural flexibility, in hopes of them becoming our next new talent. So when I walked into a CrossFit gym, I quickly blew off mobility work because I thought didn’t need it. If anyone questioned me about it, I would quickly bust into the splits.
So what is the difference between mobility and flexibility?
Kelly Starret describes mobilization as “a movement-based integrated full-body approach that addresses all the elements that limit movement and performance including short and tight muscles, soft tissue restriction, joint capsule restriction, motor control problems, joint range of motion dysfunction, and neural dynamic issues. In short, mobilization is a tool to globally address movement and performance problems”.
The big take away from Starret’s definition of mobility is the joints’ ability to move through its’ full range of motion with control. A lack of strength and/or lack of flexibility may hinder your mobility. Mobility is dynamic – constantly moving, just like the stretching we do at the very beginning of class.
Flexibility is the ability to extend a joint through its’ intended range of motion. There is not strength involved in flexibility. Flexibility is a static stretch, like ROMWOD.
Now, do you see?
Functional movements are dynamic. Mobility work before working out allows our joints and ligaments to move through their full range of motion so that we can then strengthen them through our workouts. Once the workout is over and we have strengthened our joints, ligaments, and muscles, our body is wants to start repairing right away. This is when flexibility work comes in so we can keep the length we have already created.
When it comes down to it, you can only be as strong as you are mobile. Want a 200lb back squat or snatch? No program will get you there without mobility, even if you can do the over-splits.
Oh, there is also one more piece to mobility… activation. Stay tuned for more on Mobility + Activation.
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